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Biggest losers are now the biggest winners

By STEVE COOK, Real Estate Economy Watch   |   Dec. 26, 2012 at 4:46 PM   |   Comments

Housing markets that were on their knees just a year or so ago from foreclosures and low employment today are seeing prides rise much faster than cities that never felt the housing crash, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

Median home prices rose 4.3 percent in the 12 months ending in October in the 20-City Composite, out-distancing analysts’ forecasts. Anticipated seasonal weakness appeared as twelve of the 20 cities and both Composites posted monthly declines in home prices in October.

The largest rebound is 24.2 percent in Detroit even though prices there are still about 20% lower than 12 years ago. San Francisco and Phoenix have also rebounded from recent lows by 22.5 percent and 22.1 percent with prices comfortably higher than 12 years ago. The smallest recoveries are in Boston and New York, two cities in the northeast which suffered smaller losses in the housing bust than the Sunbelt or California.

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, called the gains from the bottom markets an indication of the rebound is the underway. “Looking over this report, and considering other data on housing starts and sales, it is clear that the housing recovery is gathering strength. Higher year-over-year price gains plus strong performances in the southwest and California, regions that suffered during the housing bust, confirm that housing is now contributing to the economy. Last week’s final revision to third quarter GDP growth showed that housing represented 10% of the growth while accounting for less than 3% of GDP.

In nineteen of the 20 cities covered by the Index, annual returns in October were higher than September. Chicago and New York were the only two cities with negative annual returns in October. Phoenix home prices rose for the 13th month in a row. San Diego was second best with nine consecutive monthly gains.

“The October monthly numbers were weaker than September as 12 cities saw prices drop compared to seven the month before. The five which turned down in October but not in September, were Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis and Seattle. Among all 20 cities, Chicago was the weakest with prices dropping 1.5 percent, followed by Boston where prices fell 1.4 percent. Las Vegas saw the strongest one-month gain with prices up 2.8 percent,” said Blitzer.

“Annual rates of change in home prices are a better indicator of the performance of the housing market than the month-over-month changes because home prices tend to be lower in fall and winter than in spring and summer. Both the 10- and 20-City Composites and 19 of 20 cities recorded higher annual returns in October 2012 than in September. The impact of the seasons can also be seen in the seasonally adjusted data where only three cities declined month-to-month. The 10-City Composite annual rate of +3.4 percent in October was lower than the 20-City Composite annual figure of +4.3 percent because the two weaker cities - Chicago and New York - have higher weights in the 10-City Composite,” he said.

As of October 2012, average home prices across the United States are back to their autumn 2003 levels for both the 10-City and 20-City Composites. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the decline for both Composites is approximately 30% through October 2012 and approximately 35% from the June/July 2006 peak values to their recent lows in early 2012. The October 2012 levels for both Composites are about 8.4 to 9% above their early 2012 lows.

In October 2012, 12 MSAs and both Composites posted negative month-over-month returns. Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego and San Francisco were the only seven cities that recorded positive monthly returns. Denver remained flat.
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